Thursday

Don Awrey

This is Don Awrey. His off and on ice personalities were like Jekyll and Hyde.

Off the ice you'd have trouble finding a kinder, easy-smiling and soft spoken man, the kind of person who is easy to get along with.

One the ice he was a mean and miserable S.O.B., not afraid to bend the rules using to stop him from using his hands, feet, a well positioned stick and his nasty high elbows to stop an opponent.

Awrey was the consummate team player who always put the team's fortunes go ahead of any personal accomplishments. He was a classic defensive defenseman who got the same kick out of blocking a shot as of scoring a goal.

Awrey was paired together with the legendary Bobby Orr from time to time. As a "stay at home" defenseman, Awrey's attention to the back end allowed Orr to visit the offensive zone frequently.

Awrey enjoyed being paired with the player many believe is the best of all time.

"I knew what my role was and what Bobby's was," recalled Don. "Bobby was a special type of player. To see Bobby play the game either as his defensive partner or sitting on the bench, there were never enough words to describe him. There was no doubt in my mind that he was head and shoulders above any other player in the league before or during his time."

Beyond the lengthy point shot, Awrey never worried too much about offense himself. He once went 153 games between scoring goals.

Don almost didn't play hockey, much less walk, because of a congenital back condition. He was faced with an operation which gave him only a 50% chance to walk again. Don took the chance and the surgery was a success.

Don was spotted by the Bruins while playing junior B hockey in Waterloo. They then shipped him to the famed Niagara Falls Flyers of the OHA where he played between 1960-63, where he played with the likes of Gary Dornhoefer, Terry Crisp, Jean-Paul Parise, and Ron Schock

Don then went on to play for the Boston Bruins, but at first he had trouble being a regular on the team. Everybody agreed that Don had great speed and mobility but that he lacked, at that stage of his career, aggressiveness. During the 1965-66 season he played all the 70 games and was used as both a defenseman and left wing.

He was sent down to Hershey (AHL) in 1966-67 where coach Frank Mathers took him under his wing and built up Don's confidence and let him mature. Don impressed general manager Milt Schmidt so much that he protected him in the expansion draft. This surprise caused some eyebrow lifting. Schmidt said that he wanted a fast-moving defenseman who could carry the puck and who could get back in time to defend, and he believed Don was the man.

A great boost to Don's morale was that he was paired together with the tough Ted Green on the blue line. Don became a meanie on defense. He made it his business to get a piece of every opposition puck-carrier.

"I was not well-liked by most of the guys I played against, especially the right wingers," Don said. "Guys going into the corners with me would try to punish me at the same time. So when that happened I would just raise my elbows a little to protect myself. I used to have some pretty good battles in those corners. And there is one player I can pick out who really gave me the roughest time and that was Bill Fairbairn. Billy and I used to beat the living daylights out of each other in the corners. We never made things easy on each other. If Billy went into the corner first, I would really give it to him. And if I went into the corner first he would really give it to me. But we never really had any physical fights against each other. "

Don's proudest moment of his career came in 1972 when he was chosen to play for Team Canada in the Summit Series against the Russians.

"That was probably the greatest thrill for me. To be chosen to play for your country is a great honour. When I got the call, the poor guy who asked me if I wanted to play on the team didn't even get the question out of his mouth when I said ´sure, when do I report ? ´ That's how bad I wanted to play in the series. "

Along the way Don also won two Stanley Cups with Boston in 1970 and 72 but was denied a third with Montreal, despite playing 72 regular season games and being dressed (but scratched) for four Stanley Cup final games in 1976.

"Playing on two Stanley Cup winners in Boston was great, although I did play on a third Stanley Cup team in Montreal (75-76) but never got my name on the Cup itself. I missed the last two or three games of the season and never got into a playoff game, my name wasn't on the Cup. Ironically, a year or two later they changed that rule. But I guess that's life. " Don said.

Aside from his stints in Boston and Montreal he also played for St.Louis, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers and finally for Colorado Rockies in 1978-79. This great shot blocking defenseman wasn't flashy but he was very tough to get around and he did his job admirably. Don Awrey was a classy and classic defenseman.

After retirement Awrey worked at a variety of odd jobs before settling in on starting his own charter bus company specializing in transporting Boston fans to Montreal to watch games at the old Montreal Forum. He did well in that venture, allowing himself to retiring and since has enjoyed traveling all across America, particularly between homes in Massachusetts and Florida, in his RV. He works part time as a delivery driver of biohazard waste from medical centers in Fort Myers, Florida.

13 comments:

Anonymous,  4:34 PM  

I had the oppurtunity to play for him at Florida Gulf Coast University. He would bring his rings into the locker room before big games to pump us up. He is a great man.

Anonymous,  8:20 PM  

Don Awrey and Bobby Orr were a defence pairing that symbolize my happy marriage.
My wife is a high achiever and I play back. The Orrs of the world are special, but they need an Awrey to watch their back, keep the home fires burning, etc.

Anonymous,  5:25 AM  

I've been honored to be paired with him on defense when he plays drop-ins in Ft.Myers,Fla. He's always teaching,and a real gentleman.

cherie bruce,  3:36 PM  

I knew Don when i was a little girl, him and his wife would come over for dinner once in awhile. I remember one time when he was over my house, and we had a b.b.q, and Don sat across the table from me, and when he bit into his ear of corn, a piece of kernal flew across the table and landed on my plate. Reason for this was because he had his front tooth out...lol. the tooth he lost from a puck. That was funny i will never forget it. Still love ya Don and miss you tons. Cheryl

Anonymous,  8:55 AM  

I am 52 and grew up watching him play. I still play in a beer league in California and I still block shots because of watching him play. Old time hockey. I went to hockey camp in Worcester and Gary Doak was there which was great, but I wish it was Don Awrey at camp. The NHL was recently considering a new rule making it a penalty to drop down to block shots. What a mistake that would be. He made being a defensive player an honorable job.

Joe 12:24 AM  

I went to Mr. Awrey's hockey summer camps when I was a boy. Up in Rochester the first time, and at what I remember was a private school in NH too. His brother, Bob Awrey was the camp director. I was such a pain in the neck that Don Awrey remembered my name the next year. We kids got a lot of ice time, we felt like pros. Like Bruins. My first year I was so young I didn't know how to tie my own skates tight enough. Don Marcotte showed me how to tie my skates (how cool is that?). I remember seeing Mr. Awrey's Canada Cup sweater versus Russia at hockey camp. I used to go see the Braves games at "The Garden" when I was a boy, on Saturdays, with my Mom. I saw Terry O'Reilly play there before he was a Bruin, and Matt Ravelitch (sp?) have a fight with "was it Bill" Spears. I'm an old time hockey kind of guy, which is why I enjoyed the Habs vs. the B's the other night. I haven't laced 'em up in about six or eight years. I wish I'd taken the opportunity to play Junior B's when I got it, but figured I was, at what I thought, at my limit. I remember when Awrey was traded to St. Louis (you came to the All-Star game with in injury from taking a puck in the face). My family was not happy when you were traded. My mom wrote a letter, handrwitten, to Sinden. It was not so complimentary to that decision.

I'd just like to get out onto the ice with you again.

You played the blue line with hockey's greatest player, and he could not have been succesful there without you.

rjmcdermott 12:16 AM  

Don, if you ever read this, I am 54 now, and growing up you were my very favorite Bruin. I played hockey from maybe ten up to forty, defense, and you were the tops for me, loved your agressive style of defense, the way you covered up for Bobby on his rushes....

I had the pleasure of meeting Orr in the mid 80s at the first alumni game in Lowell. I had a copy of "Orr on Ice" for him to sign. He looked at it and said "Wow, how long have you had THIS?". I told him my Mom gave it to me for Christmas in 1968, I said "She thought you were my favorite Bruin!"

Orr laughed and said "I wasn't???", and I replied "nope". He seemed stunned and said "you know, I don't hear that very often, you have to tell me who WAS your favorite player"

I simply replied "Don Awrey".

Orr got a nice chuckle out of that and said "Elbows??? I'll have to tell him he had ONE fan out there that I couldn't get!"

Don, I have a great photo of you somewhere, and I would be honored if I could get you to sign it for me please.

Anonymous,  11:17 AM  

You were always my favorite as well. I wore my number 26 Bruins shirt with pride.

Maryella 5:41 PM  

Don, you always were and still are my favorite Boston Bruins Player. I still have a winter Bruins hat the my mom embroidered you name on for me. I had the biggest crush on you, and now that I have 13 year old son I made sure he knew all about that tema that made defense man history, Don Awrey and Bobby Orr.

Cliff Mathewson,  7:57 AM  

I was at a Bruins Alumni game in Concord,N.H..I had a book with me titled,"Shore to Orr and the years in between".Between periods I saw Don Awrey signing auotographs.He signed a picture of him and Bobby Orr celebrating their first Stanley Cup victory.After he signed my book I politely said,"Thank You".He replied "No,Thank You".terirsc

Anonymous,  8:45 AM  

Not suprised by all of these coments. I never met #26, but I had the opportunity of meeting Terry O', Rick Middleton and Brad Park at an event for a young girl suffering from cancer. Those guys couldn't have been nicer. You know they talked to my father, wife and me as if we were all good friends. Don Awrey sounds like the same type of guy. Was there any team more fun to watch than the B's of the early 70;s

Anonymous,  2:27 PM  

hi don: carl and joanne laing at crystal lake, do you remember?? not only our special hockey player but a great friend when you were with us at crystal lake. lots of good times and great laughs. just to brag to you a little we have 3 girl hockey players in our family now, one is attending princeton, one headed to harvard (a goalie) next year and the third committed to harvard after she graduates next year. would love to hear from you, but if not possible, we enjoyed you as fans, and our personal contact with you at crystal lake.

Monstah 7:02 PM  

We met at Fanueil Hall. Copley Plaza, room service?

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